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Hunting

Memories and Moments Hunting

My best memories hunting is not the kill. My best memories are the moments preparing, the time with my dad, family, and friends. The time spent preparing a meal from a harvest and sharing it with others. Witnessing the emotional rollercoaster of a buddy’s hunt. The elated since of accomplishment all around me. The days hiking, scouting, and viewing wildlife. With each outing comes a memory, a moment, a juncture in time, a point that should be appreciated for what it is. No ego, no opinion, no comparison. Just a reflection of the journey. Hunting is a culture, a heritage, and a lifestyle.  Here are a few of those stories and reflections:

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Santa Came Early

Christmas Eve I roll out of bed early, loaded from the previous day’s hunt we head out to the land in hopes for an encounter of a buck that has been eluding me since the season opener. No fences, no gates, no landmarks mark the boundaries just a gps file with a few red lines that tell me I am in the right place. I park the truck, grab my gear and start on a short hike, about three quarters of a mile as the crow flies to an old mound that towers over the flat landscape. Here is where I set up my cover to wait as the sun begins to brighten the horizon. No feeders, no food plots, just a small watering hole upwind about 50 yards. To my back, an expanse of grass land intermingled with native flora. The remainder is the thickest mix of thorny plants impenetrable by the human species. It is an area I have been watching, it is an area of a buck that has been frequenting off and on over the last five months. As I sit for hours glassing, a single moment led me to a shimmer of hope as the sun glistened off some light-colored antlers. As I look through my scope I begin to evaluate the deer in my sights. One, two, three…… ten, twelve, thirteen. It slowly strolled through the patch work of trees. It’s strong stature, and unique antlers ensures me I am looking at the deer I have been dreaming about seeing in person for weeks after weeks long grinds, passing up deer that maintain a stable presence, and bucks that have not seen their prime. A flood of emotion begins running through my veins as I slowly get into position to take the perfect shot.

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New Grounds

I arrive at first light, on the side of a small ridge just off a creek bottom. Cool crisp morning, I set up in an area that makes for a natural ground blind I begin to peer through the evenly spaced pines for the ever-slightest movement. First time visiting this area, however it has a familiar feel to it, just down the way are the trails I have been pounding out miles and camping over the summer. Between the squirrels rummaging for their winter provisions, leaves floating down with each breeze, and the way the light shines through and shadows, my head stays on a swivel. Internally, I am battling an unfamiliarity and belonging with the means to which I have landed in this spot. A sagacity of uneasiness. Wrestling with the internal question of ownership and belonging. As I struggle with coming to terms of the right of possession my eyes are diverted to a natural shooting lane. I draw my rifle and peering through the scope a doe begins to slip through. With a blink, it disappears in the network of wood columns that make up the surroundings. Like a ghost it fades beyond the human reaches.

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The Fight

Days upon days scouring the horizons and fields of the rolling grassland’s patchworked thickets we fail to turn up a mature deer. We have seen many, but our goal of a mature animal continues to elude us. I am after one that has seen his spell, the peak of it being. One that has stood the test of time through the seasons of past. As I nestle into a small bush. I pound the ground making a thud that permeates through the crisp clean air. Scraping the ground with a fury to warn all near that this is my territory. With a clash of a past harvest, my antlers clash together interlocked in a beat that warns all that I am the king. It is my domain and I am making it know to all around. The air is ripe with the scent of estrous. With a second clash in the distance, I look up to witness the battle I am trying to create. Two bucks from separate corners in the meadow charge each other and lock antlers with a battle for dominance. As fast as it began, it ended. The victor bowed its chest with antlers held high scanned the meadow, to say who is next. Caught up in the moment I watched as it calmed its nerves and trotted out in pride.

Fruit of the Labor

Sweat rolling down the inside of my pant leg the last t-post has been driven into the hard-black clay soil that has been baking in the Texas heat for the last several months. The hog fence is tied in and the corn goes into the barrel of a newly placed feeder. The placement is along an old seismic lane that is now a freshly brush-hogged sendero that cuts through mesquite, granjeno, huisache, catclaw, blackbrush, knitted so tightly that crawling is the only method of passage. The placement of this feeder has come over countless hours patterning the movements of the local wildlife. The placement is perfectly positioned to intercept several natural game trails and small depression that tends to hold water after a good summer shower.  The narrow lane gives the security of the thicket with openness for the hunter to take a clean ethical shot.  The local wildlife is skittish after decades of poaching and mismanagement. Seeing a deer is common but it is typically just a matter of seconds, their flight zone tends to rival those in the highest of pressure area. Excited I place a game camera to limit my exposure to the area. I load up, leaving no trace but the artificial feed tree and move out of the area with nothing more than future anticipation.

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His First hunt

Nikes, jeans, t shirt, and a fleece camo jacket, he stands by the door, waiting in anticipation with pure excitement radiating from his being as I gather our gear. We are going camping as he says his good byes. At five years old, my son, contributes hunting with the same reverence as camping. They are equal, not one above the other. Just a pure appreciation for the outdoors and wild things.  We arrive with three hours left of daylight and make our way to the stand. Quieter than he ever has been, he patiently scans the area for wildlife. He spots insects by the dozen, hogs, and birds of all sorts. He only knows what he has heard, he knows to be quiet, be slow in his actions, and keep an eye out for everything. With each scan of his monocular he gently sets it on the shelf. He won’t eat is packet of goldfish because it is too noisy. He saves his juice, so he doesn’t have to pee. He had been waiting for this day forever. We were hunting.

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Hope you enjoyed

Budget Meals for the Backcountry

It is very easy to spend a bunch of money planning an adventure. Getting three square meals, fuel for the journey, and a few comfort items adds up quick. Dehydrated meals can run anywhere from 5-15 bucks a meal, add in a snack or two, a few drink mixes and you are up to 50 bucks a day. That can be a hard meal to swallow when you start extending trips out past a day or two. To save some cash, try to be proactive throughout the year to pick up deals on meals, stash away some freebies, learn DIY meals, and pick up a few extras on routine trips to the grocer. Below Ill share some of the ways I save some dough and field prepared meals that are simple and easy on the trail.

To start off and set the stage for budget planning, I want to go over a no brainer and a technique you are probably already doing. Start with stashing condiments, tea, and coffee. I am not advocating stealing, but simply asking your server or order taker for a few extra ketchups, mayos, and the like. The following are commonly found single serve packets that you can pick up throughout the year. I keep a bag in my Pantry and just toss in any extras I do not use with my takeout. After a few months you will have more than enough to get you through a week long hike or river trip.

Commonly found Single Serve Condiments:

  • Ketchup
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Butter
  • Jelly
  • Pickle Relish
  • Limon Juice
  • Parmesan 
  • Red Pepper
  • Salsa 
  • Salad Dressing
  • BBQ Sauce 
  • And many other Spices, sauces, and dressing

Hotels tend to leave complimentary Coffee and Tea bags in your room for that morning kick start. Ask for a few before you check out,  they always seem to accommodate me when I do. if you crunched for time and procrastinated Amazon and Pack it gourmet are great place to order individual items if your local take out is too stingy.

Now for the stuff that costs you part of that hard-earned pay check. To minimize the impact of the main courses of an outing you will need to be proactive. Too often I find myself trying to get creative and unique but 5 days into a 10-day trip home comforts often are the best thing you have in your pack. In addition, being overly creative tends to get expensive and not always the most appetizing on the trail. Stick with the basics. When I hit the Grocery store I will add 3 extras items to my basket that I set aside for my next trip. These are standard items that I can use in conjunction with my newly acquired condiments.

Grocery Items

  • Tuna Packets (I get the ones in the foil packets that come in different flavors)
  • Chicken Breast in a can (usually found next to the tuna)
  • Mash potato packets
  • Raman noodles (non flavored and flavored)
  • Lipton noodle meals
  • Instant Rice
  • Grits
  • Oatmeal
  • Meal Bars
  • Single serve mixed nuts
  • Tomato Paste tubes
  • Real Bacon Bits
  • Shelf stable Cheeses
  • Chicken, beef, or veggie Bouillon Cubes

 

Now that you have the staples downs you are ready to put some meals together.For breakfast, I tend to eat on the go or mix up some simple morning fuel and add a twist.

 

Buttery Bacon Grits

  • Grits - 2 Packets of instant
  • Two Butter packets
  • Handful of Shelf Stable Bacon Bits or Bacon Jerky

Cook Grits as specified on packet. Stir in the butter and bacon.

 

Blueberry Granola

  • ½ cup vanilla flavored or plain granola
  • 2-3 tbl of powdered milk

Add ¼- ½ cup water, mix and eat immediately

 

Unless I am at a base camp, lunches tend to turn out as more of hourly snacks that keep me fueled for the journey and I can eat on the move. Meal bars, trail mix, and tuna packets tend to dominate the course but some of my favorites are simple but effective fuel sources that don't tend to linger in the gut. These are staples for me on the trail when in motion

  • Date rolls
  • Peanut or Almond Butter (I get the Justin Single serve packets)
  • Tuna salad
  • Dried Sausage
  • Pro Bars
  • Macaroons
  • Beef Jerky
  • Mixed nuts
  • Energy gels 
  • Dried Fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Meal replacement powders

 

Dinner is my important meal, I try to pack the most nutrition I can before I go to sleep. After I set up camp Ill snack on some beef jerky, reup my electrolytes, and cook dinner. I am not going to lie this is where my dehydrated meals come into play. I have been using Heathers Choice as they seem to have the best health benefit, taste great, and calorie dense dehydrated food on the market in my opinion. (no we are not sponsored by Heather's Choice) But dehydrated meals get old fast if you don't have a large variety or find something that does not agree with you so I also try and bring comfort foods that I know I can always stomach. (I wrote a previous post in regards to some of the fresh cooked foods here) below are a few additional recipes that are quick, cheap, and taste great. 

Tuna or Chicken Salad

  • 2 Packages of Single serve tuna (I like hickory smoked tuna)
  • 3 single serve mayo
  • 1 single serve mustard
  • I Single serve dill relish
  • 2 salt a peppers
  • Mix contents and serve. To add additional calories, serve in a tortilla or add bacon jerky to the mix.

Trail Side spaghetti

  • 1/4 cup of macaroni noodles or Raman (Raman will cook much faster)
  • 1 Tbl of Italian seasoning 
  • 1/4 tsp of salt and pepper (4 or 5 little packets from your local take out)
  • Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets (think takeout pizza)
  • Tube of tomato paste
  • Cube of chicken bullion 
  • Dried sausage for the meat eater

Boil water. Add chicken bouillon and dissolve then add noodles. (turn off heat or lower flame so it doesn't over flow) - cook until noodles are tender. Once noodles are done pour off water until you are left with a 1/2 cup. Add in seasoning, salt & pepper, and a small bit of tomato paste stir until tomato paste is dissolved and mixed in evenly. Add cuts of dried sausage wait a few min then add red pepper and Parmesan and enjoy

 

But don't just stop here

Invest in a dehydrator, for the cost of a days’ worth of dehydrated meals, you can purchase one on Amazon. This allows you to make your own Beef Jerky, Dried Sausage, Dried Fruits and even take leftovers and turn them into backpacking meals. If you just put in a simple search to google you will find an abundant of recipes and how to videos that will keep you busy for months leading up to a big adventure. Don’t forget the Preparation can be just as much funs as the trip itself.

 

Mikes DYI Bulk Trail Mix

  • Bulk Mixed Nuts
  • Bag of Raw Almonds
  • Bag of Raisins
  • Bag Shaved Coconut
  • Peanut M&Ms (heavy on the M&Ms, you’ll thank us later)
  • DYI Dehydrated Fruit (Bananas, Apples, Cranberries etc.…)
  • Yogurt Covered Raisins

Use a giant bowl and mix it all up. Proportion it to meet your caloric needs in individual sandwich bags or vacuum seal for shelfs stability and future use. Be careful when vacuum sealing dehydrated fruits they tend to clump and stick together. Using grated coconut helps remedy this. Once it’s all mixed in just separate into Ziplocs or vacuum bags and you’re ready to roll for many trips and days ahead.

 

So to keep the spend down and the quality up do these tips throughout the year to plan for your next backcountry trip. Load up on freebies - save all unused single serve condiments and throw them in a designated bag in the pantry.

  • Grocery shopping - pick up one or two items each trip to the store that I save for camping trips, trail runs, and kayaking trips. 
  • Look for sells on Dehydrated meals and closeouts at your local sporting goods store
  • Think outside the box and prepare your own dried or shelf stable meals a head of time.
  • Invest in a dehydrator, this alone opens up a whole new way to planning meals with Health and wellness in the forefront
  • Be creative with what you have on had and  think about your normal everyday comfort foods.

Victory in a pursuit

Tired, sore, and on edge we roll into base camp knowing that we have 24 hours left of our hunt. All was grim as stormy weather and a plethora of hindsight left us at our mental limits as we planned for our final pursuit. Leaving spike camp just hours before, we tossed around ideas as our ambitions grew. A 3:30 am start, along with an tough climb, the high meadow that seemed worlds away became the accord. Nevertheless, Mike headed up the mountain to scout it out and glass our morning destination. As Mike’s silhouette faded into the valley we all pick up the pieces of the prior days and began the chatter on the victory of our pursuit in a different shade. As the light faded the storm intensified, we all scramble to the cook tarp to post up for Mike’s return. Thunder and lightning erupting, we see Mike strolling into camp, head hanging low, we knew the story was a repeat of the days before. He told his tale of the weather, the storm, the stalk, the encounter, and a dance with the giant that to this day roams. Then ever so slightly each word intensified by the flashes of lightening, he changed his tone and uttered the words of success that lay on the mountain above...

- Daniel Underbrink

 Mike Kulbeth showing off the arrow of success 

Mike Kulbeth showing off the arrow of success